Enjo-kōsai (援助交際) or “assisted relationship”, abbreviated as enkō is the act of high school girls (13 to 17) or housewives dating older men for money, gifts of luxuries, among other things.
They are just meetings for dinner, karaoke, cinema, walking hand in hand and keeping company. The practice of sex in Enjo-kōsai is not common, but it can happen to a limited extent or in certain cases.
The nature of Enjo-kōsai is strongly contested within Japan. The most common connotation is that enkō is a form of child prostitution in which participating girls sell their bodies in exchange for designer goods or money.
Anthropologist Laura Miller argues in her research that most of the dates on which Enjo-kōsai occurred consist of groups of girls who go with a group of older men to a karaoke bar for several hours and are paid for the time they spent with your companions.
In addition, in a survey conducted in 1998 by the Asian Women's Fund, researchers found that less than 10 percent of all high school girls were involved with Enjo-kōsai and more than 90 percent of girls interviewed said they were feel uncomfortable about exchanging or buying sexual services for money.
Perceptions in Japanese society
Normally, it is perceived as an extension of Japan's growing focus on materialism, many of the critics say the biggest cause is Enjo-kōsai. Critics fear that the girls involved in Enjo-kōsai will grow up to be inappropriate wives and mothers. This perception stems from suspicions that when these girls become adults, they will quickly abandon their loyalties and commitments to their family in order to offer money and material benefits.
However, some girls think that control over their bodies and means of supporting themselves is a type of independence. Good women in Japan are supposed to be sensible, modest, caring and respectful, and clearly these girls are throwing away all these virtues when they participate in Enjo-kōsai.
Sooner or later, these girls and young women would have a desire for financial independence, making Enjo-kōsai a new choice of market and training.
Enjo-kōsai through the media
Within Japan, the media tends to show Enjo-kōsai in a very negative way. In some series, novels, among others, enkō has a typical scenario that involves a girl desperate for money, so she decides to participate in Enjo-kōsai, and only later does she stop when a friend or other people intervene and inform her -the potential risks and consequences of their behavior.
The media may characterize Enjo-kōsai as a form of prostitution, but it depends on what angle the situation is viewed, whether of the person or of the agreement signed with the client, the most correct way being to say that the term Enjo-kōsai characterizes the act of satisfying the client in a sexual, affective way or of keeping company in some places, such as restaurants and cafes.
Prostitution has been illegal in Japan since the 1950s, although the definition of prostitution is strict, covering not only contacts between the genitals. Special laws on child prostitution were introduced in the 1990s. Enjo-kōsai was not regulated by the Japanese government, as it does not fall under the legal definition of prostitution, unless the client explicitly pays the girl for sex (which is rare , due to the indirect nature of the transactions). As the age of consent in Japan varies between 13 and 17, depending on the jurisdiction, clients cannot be accused of child abuse.